The Autumnal Equinox, occurs when the Sun is at zero degrees Libra, and as the name implies, it is the time when day and night are of equal length. Libra is the sign of the zodiac symbolized by the scales in balance, and it is a perfect symbol also for the day and night in balance.
The night conquers day, as we slide into the dark half of the year.
Usually the last bit, or a small corner of the harvest was left in the fields and not taken up. It was bound and left to stand until the Harvest Festival, when it would be symbolically sacrificed to represent the Sacrificed God of Vegetation. It was considered unlucky to cut down the very last of the Harvest, and so was also left to stand in the field by some traditions. If wheat or a grain, it was bound tightly, and also could be dressed in men’s clothing, and was the fore-runner of the scarecrow. This “man” was often burned in a sacrifice to the Gods, as well as animals, in a large “wicker man”.
Crying The Neck is a harvest festival tradition once common in counties of Devon and Cornwall in the United Kingdom in Europe. The tradition declined following the invention of machines.
In Cornwall, however, the tradition was revived in the early twentieth century by the Old Cornwall Society.
In The Story of Cornwall, by Kenneth Hamilton Jenkin, the following explanation is given on the practice:
“In those days the whole of the reaping had to be done either with the hook or scythe. The harvest, in consequence, often lasted for many weeks. When the time came to cut the last handful of standing corn, one of the reapers would lift up the bunch high above his head and call out in a loud voice…..,
“I ‘ave ‘un! I ‘ave ‘un! I ‘ave ‘un!”
The rest would then shout,
“What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee?”
and the reply would be:
“A neck! A neck! A neck!”
This was also the time for replacing your old broom with a new one. As the broom corn is ripe now, besom making is traditional and magickal this time of year.